In five States — West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Tripura — more than 8% of men aged below 35 had a random blood glucose level higher than 140 milligrams per decilitre (mg/dl), according to the National Family Health Survey-5 conducted between 2019 and 2021. The trend holds true for women aged below 35 in West Bengal and Tripura as well.
Not only was the share higher in these States, but the increase from 2015-16 (NFHS-4) was also considerable. In West Bengal, the share of men aged below 35 with high blood glucose level increased by 2.6% points in the five-year period. Among the women, the increase was even higher at 3% points. Among the men in Tripura, the increase was much higher at 5.6% points and among women, it was 3.5% points.
The NFHS classified an individual as having high blood glucose if the random blood glucose level was above 140 mg/dl. Less than 140 was considered normal. The high glucose level is used to identify patients who are potentially diabetic. However, further tests have to be conducted to confirm the diagnosis.
While the share of young people with high blood glucose levels was alarming in the above-mentioned States, the rest of India was not far behind. In the southern States of Tamil Nadu and Telangana, the north-eastern States of Assam, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Mizoram, and Gujarat and Odisha, the share of young men with high blood glucose levels crossed 6% in 2019-21.
In 20 out of the 29 States analysed, the share of such young men increased. Of the nine States where the share decreased, Kerala’s decline was notable. From 8.8% of young men with high blood glucose level in 2015-16, the share reduced to 3.9% in 2019-21. Among women, an increase was observed in 21 States. Chart 1A plots the share of men aged below 35 whose random blood glucose levels were high in 2019-21 (vertical axis), against the increase in the share compared to 2015-16 (horizontal axis). Chart 1B plots the same for young women. Young women in general had lower blood glucose levels than men. Except in West Bengal and Tripura, in other States, the share of such young women was less than 6% in 2019-21. The increase from 2015-16 was also relatively muted compared to young men.
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The above conclusions consider people aged between 15 and 34. If only those in their thirties are considered, the share of potentially diabetic young persons was much higher. Close to 9% of Indian women in their thirties were either on medication to control diabetes or had a high random blood glucose level in 2019-21. And the figure for men was even higher at 11.3%.
Most of the trends observed among the younger population hold true even if we include the older age groups. Chart 2A plots the share of men aged between 15-54 whose random blood glucose levels were high in 2019-21 (vertical axis), against the increase in the share compared to 2015-16 (horizontal axis). Chart 2B plots the same for women aged 15-49.
As can be observed from charts 2A and 2B, Indian women in general are less susceptible to diabetes than men. The number of men with a high random blood glucose level was relatively higher in Goa, West Bengal, Tripura and the southern States of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. This was closely followed by Uttarakhand, Odisha and the north-eastern States of Meghalaya, Assam and Mizoram. The trend mostly holds true among women too. So, in general, the diabetic incidence is higher in the eastern, northeastern and southern States.
In the print version of the story, there was an error in the unit assigned to the figures in the first paragraph. It has been corrected in the online version
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Source: National Family and Health Survey (NFHS)-4, NFHS-5